Recent research suggests that how many beans you eat is a strong predictor of how long you’ll live. Unfortunately, 96% of Americans fail to get even the paltry daily recommended intake of half a cup! Considering there are 13,000 varieties of legumes—from chickpeas to split peas to lentils—this bean dearth is hard to excuse.
Beans Reduce Your Risk of Death
Researchers from different institutions across the globe examined food intake in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Australia. Only one food stood out as a contender for lowering risk of death—beans! And the type of bean didn’t seem to matter at all. In Japan soy is popular, in Sweden brown beans and peas are preferred, and in the Mediterranean, lentils, chickpeas, and white beans top the charts. All of these beans were linked to increased longevity.
Load Up on Legumes
Legumes are low in calories, high in protein, and full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’ve got fiber, folate, vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper, to name a few. All this goodness translates to bowel regularity, balanced blood sugar levels, low cholesterol, and optimal heart health! Not to mention, legumes fill you up fast… with fewer calories. They are the perfect weight loss and weight maintenance food.
Canned vs. Dried
A recent study published in Food and Nutritional Sciences indicates that canned beans are on par with dried beans when it comes to nutritional value. Plus, they’re much more convenient, as dried beans can take hours to cook up!
It’s worth noting that canned beans are a tad more expensive (20 cents more) and can have up to 100 times the sodium of dried beans. That’s because rinsing and draining dried beans removes some of the excess sodium…but this same process can also remove some vitamins and minerals, too. If you’re a fan of canned legumes, then opt for the “no-salt” varieties to ensure you’re not going overboard on the sodium.
As for flatulence, don’t let a little gas deter you from the nutritional wellspring of legumes! Research shows that although flatulence kicks into gear when you start adding legumes to your diet, your digestive system eventually gets used to it and the flatulence subsides. In other words, stick it out—the gas will evaporate in due time!
If scientists found a way to lower your risk of death from all causes by 20%, that discovery would be immediately broadcast on every major network, newspaper, and online information hub, right? Wrong.
In 2013, researchers form the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that people who made one simple nutritional choice daily dramatically decreased their risk of death. Their findings, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), showed that by a handful of nuts daily, individuals became 20% less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period.
In a Nutshell: An Ounce a Day Keeps Death Away
The researchers analyzed data collected from almost 120,000 people over three decades. The information for the analysis came from the Nurses’ Health Study (conducted with 76,464 women between 1980 and 2010) and the Health Professionals’ follow-up study (which included 42,498 men from 1986 to 2010).
Participants in both studies filled out detailed food questionnaires every two to four years. Both questionnaires specifically asked participants to estimate how often they consumed a serving (one ounce) of nuts.
When analyzing the questionnaires, the researchers used sophisticated statistical tools to subtract the effect of other factors that could have beneficially impacted risk of death. They discovered that a number of factors were linked to high nut intake, including body fat percentage, fruits and vegetable consumption, physical activity level, and avoidance of tobacco and alcohol.
But the researchers were able to neutralize the impact of these linked factors. “In all these analyses,” explained first author Dr. Ying Bao, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, ”the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period.”
While Bao and the others acknowledged it would be impossible to account for every single difference between those who regularly ate nuts and those who did not, they said it was “unlikely” any of those differences affected the results.
Why Health “Nuts” Live Longer
The results linked nut consumption to a total reduction in death rate across a multitude of frequently fatal chronic conditions, such as…
- Heart disease
Dr. Charles Fuchs, lead author, noted, “The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease, the major killer of people in America.” Fuchs and his fellow scientists believe the decline in death rates came from a combination of health benefits.
Nuts appear to promote reductions to key factors linked to the development of chronic diseases, like…
- Oxidative stress
- Adiposity (stored fat)
- Insulin resistance
That last effect, reduction of inflammation, is likely responsible for nuts’ connection to an 11% decrease in your risk of dying from cancer.